Ever since making his Ranji debut for Punjab in 1992-93, Pankaj Dharmani has been a consistent performer with the willow.
On Thursday, Dharmani hit his 24th century, en-route to helping Punjab salvage a draw against Uttar Pradesh in their Elite Group B tie. With Punjab beginning the final day at 127/4, much was expected on the low bouncy turf at the Bhama Shah Ground. But, Dharmani and Uday Kaul kept the bowlers at bay. Kaul (74, 21x4, 1x6) added 130 for the fifth wicket before being bowled by Piyush Chawla.
Praveen Kumar and Rudra Pratap Singh bowled a steady line. Piyush Chawla and Praveen Gupta too bowled in tandem, but failed to lure the Punjab batsmen. Dharmani, who has an unbeaten 305 in Ranji against his name, waited for the loose deliveries and kept rotating the strike. His unbeaten 135 off 318 balls was a treat to watch. Kaul's departure before lunch didn't make a difference as Dharmani steadied the innings with Vishwas Bhalla, who struck a 76.
Just before tea, Punjab declared their 2nd innings at 354/6, leaving UP to chase 281 in 15 overs. The two captains chose to end the proceedings and UP came away with three points to Punjab's one.
UP players penalised
Six UP players were taken to the task by match referee Shakti Singh on the final day for excessive appealing. Frustrated at not being able to make a breakthrough in the second innings, the UP players started appealing vociferously. Singh docked 40 per cent of the match fee of Praveen Kumar, while wicketkeeper Mohd Aamir Khan and spinner Praveen Gupta were poorer by 20 per cent.